Hybrid meetings may be the bridge to bringing corporate gatherings back. Not everyone is going to be comfortable attending a meeting in person just yet, or anytime soon. Offering a choice about whether to participate in person or online allows people to make their own decisions about what works for their comfort level and company policy. insurance

Bonus: This multichannel model allows companies to reach a larger audience.

But if this strange time has taught us anything, it’s that a shift to hybrid doesn’t mean all you have to do is point a video camera at the stage. In an exclusive webinar with Smart Meetings, “Hybrid Ready: Tips for Navigating the Bridge Back to Meeting for Finance and Insurance,” Jennifer Squeglia, member of FICP’s board of directors and head of RLC Events, joined Ann Luketic, marketing specialist with Progressive Insurance, to share seven considerations when planning a hybrid meeting for groups that may be conservative in their return to physical travel.

1. Budget: Hybrid meetings require healthy AV line items if you are going to engage both audiences. Some of those costs may be offset by fewer people attending in person, meaning less food and beverage, hotel rooms and travel costs will be incurred. But when you hire production staff for multiple feeds, overall costs could increase, so factor that in when talking to executives.

Think of the production budget as an investment that pays off in engagement. The financial and insurance industry is based on relationships, and the more you can engage your clients, the more you can strengthen the relationship. Today, every event is competing with many others—the barrier to entry is as low as the Zoom account form. Rising above other options for how you audience chooses to spend its time is essential.

2. Venues: A great deal of uncertainty about the right way to meet still exists. Contracts need to designate roles and responsibilities for meeting professionals and their hospitality partners under a number of different scenarios, depending on who is in charge of executing best practices for the pandemic when the meeting actually occurs. Who will manage screening and cleaning? Who removes attendees who do not abide by the guidelines?

Alternative plans covered in the contract also need to include the possibility that a group may outgrow a venue if social-distancing guidelines make the space unworkable. Or it may point to a smaller venue where your group can take over the entire property to create a COVID bubble.

All these considerations are even more difficult when making site inspection trips is challenging. That reality puts a premium on clear communication with the venue partner.

3. Vendor Research: From virtual platforms to menus, gifting and transportation, each aspect of the meeting will require more homework to find the right partner. No set checklist for all these items exists yet.

Start with your vision for the event, key elements you want to include to make it unique and how you will evaluate success at the end. During this transition time, finding a flexible vendor is essential—the rules are changing quickly. Creating a broadcast entails a lot of moving parts, and we don’t all have experience in that area. What has been most effective is reaching out to peers and asking them to share real-world lessons.

4. Technology: Your vendor’s technology has to play nice with your company’s technology and what is running on people’s desks at home. Offering to upgrade your customer’s webcams as a gift can be one way to strengthen the relationship.

The chosen technology should match the experience. Start by focusing on what experience you want to deliver, then choose the tech that meets your goals. You may find a less expensive solution that fits better than the fancy platform.

Then, once you have the production team and technology in place, it is important to rehearse. Put in the time polishing to make it worth your audience’s time. Remember, you are competing more than ever for their attention.

5. Communication: From marketing to registration and post-event communication, your messaging must be timely and consistent. Whether people are attending in person or virtually, respect their decisions and deliver information in the way they are comfortable receiving it. A survey asking about comfort levels is a possible starting point.

6. Engagement: When there are two distinct audiences, having a plan for each experience will help everyone feel included. That could require separate moderators as dedicated hosts for each channel, like how sports are broadcast on television.

Even the length of the program for the virtual audience may have to change. You still must work in breaks, music, gamification and other interactive tools. Just as you have to visualize the experience for the in-person audience, consider how it will feel to sit in front of a screen for the streaming audience. At the end of the day, the goal is to establish an emotional connection on all channels—because that sets a memory.

7. Duty of Care: Meeting professionals have a lot more on their checklists now. That could include hiring medical staff, working with legal teams and coordinating with venue partners on things such as F&B, traffic flow and the possibility of temperature checks. One hack: When creating all possible contingency plans, designate someone as the final decision maker, with a clear process.

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